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Part 5 of 5: The Death Of Traditional Market Research

Time To Challenge Conventional Wisdom

What does this mean for you as a market research, sales or marketing leader, or executive of a start-up, mid-sized or major corporation. It is time to challenge the conventional wisdom. Stop listening to your advertising, marketing or research firm that the status quo will get you the answer. Stop placing faith in the norm for things like NPS that even the NPS inventor Fred Riechheld said in the Wall Street Journal that he is astonished that companies are using NPS to determine bonuses and as a performance indicator. “That’s completely bogus,” Mr. Reichheld said in an interview. “I had no idea how people would mess with the score to bend it, to make it serve their selfish objectives.”

Where do we go from here?

We are asking companies to reinvent the way they ask customers, channels, vendors, and partners for feedback. It is time to break from conventional wisdom and embrace the new generation of technology. It is time to “take the market research out of market research”.

Where do you begin?

Let’s start by breaking down all our preconceived notions and foundations of conventional wisdom. If you are a market researcher, you need to challenge the norm and move to the future. If you are a sales, marketing, customer service or senior executive, you need to start challenging what you have been told and begin to ask questions as to what is right, not what is the usual. I can only say this as I have been bound by conventional wisdom and the norm for 30 years of my career and I now realize there is a new way of thinking. It isn’t difficult, and it may result in some tough conversations with internal leadership. But just as we embraced the personal computer in the 90’s, the cell phone in the early 00’s, or social media in the past 10 years, it is time to embrace a new way of thinking when it comes to market research.

6 Steps To Adopting The New Generation Of Market Research

Here is what you need to do, in 6 simple steps:

  1. Throw out the old and bring in the new: Stop relying on a simple 0-10 scale like NPS to tell you how well you are doing with your customers. Times have changed. I applaud Fred for inventing the NPS in 2003, but it’s been nearly 20 years. It’s time to adopt a new approach.

  2. Stop relying on the Likert Scale as the go-to-methodology: For every reason we have explained above, we are beyond simple scales to evaluate things such as like, appeal, importance, believability, interest, etc. Every consumer evaluates these scales differently and the results can prove unreliable.

  3. Love the emoji or emoticon; social media has given us the ability to express emotion on a technology platform: Happy or sad. Satisfied or dissatisfied. Understanding or bewildered. The emoticon is a universal language, that transcends cultures, languages, sexes, and ages. We say the old is new again. Our earliest ancestors understood this in their drawings and conveyed messages that we, to this day, can still understand. It is time to bring emotion back into market research

  4. Let’s not overwhelm: We are overwhelmed with choice and we feel we need to give our consumer many choices to make a decision. While this may be the case, we need to spoon-feed them. Just think about a menu at a restaurant or options at a department store…how many have you have become flustered or shut down as there are just too many options. Consumers think in finite choices in prioritization. Start with A or B, then B or C, then A or C. Using artificial intelligence, like our friends at Tinder, you can quickly get to what customer most prefers.

  5. Make it fun: We have all heard of the word “survey fatigue”. That is the point in which respondents just want to get the survey over with, and at that point, you can’t trust anything they have to say. You need to make it a great experience. People engage in social media, shop on Amazon, or evaluate their dining options on OpenTable for hours. We need to create a similar experience where it is not tedious, and it is fun.

  6. Make feedback actionable and individualized, immediately: We all know how traditional market research goes. We field a study, it lasts a month to three months, we aggregate results and we read it out to our leadership. Then it takes another 2-3 months to act on the findings. By the time we finally determine we have an issue, months can go by. And because we tend to look at samples and not individual customers, we ignore the individual customer feedback – the customer that is truly unhappy and dissatisfied. So by the time we realize we have an issue, it is far far too late. We must embrace a way that customers are encouraged to express their emotions as everyone needs to be heard. I have always said, the best market research needs no incentive. The incentive is knowing that you are heard. And if we can accurately capture that emotion and respond to each and every individual customer immediately to acknowledge their issue and address their need, then truly will we have what we call a lifetime customer.


It Is truly the time for a reboot of market research. Most everything else in the world is advancing while we sit and hold on to the old school market research ways. One of my favorite terms I learned in business school at Kellogg was incumbent inertia.

Incumbent inertia is the tendency of a mature organization to continue on its current trajectory. This inertia can be described as being made up of two elements -- resource rigidity and routine rigidity. Resource rigidity stems from an unwillingness to invest, while routine rigidity stems from an inability to change the patterns and logic that underlie those investments.

Bottom line, it is time to overcome the inertia…embrace a new way of thinking and please, embrace the next generation of market research.

Thank you, and to quote Emma Thomson in the recent Netflix Film Late Night, “I hope I earned the privilege of your time.

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